First National Infrastructure Commission priority list possible by 2016 Armitt says

First assessment of the nation’s medium to long term infrastructure needs could be published by a National Infrastructure Commission as early as 2016, Sir John Armitt said at this week's UK Infrastructure Conference organised by Pinsent Masons.

Sir John Armitt

He also outlined the make up of the commission which, he said, would consist of 15 members, eight of whom – including the chair – who would be appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day and seven under recommendation from the chair of the commission.

“Some say I am trying to take the politics out of infrastructure. This is opposite of what I had intended. The commission will act as an enabler for political engagement.” Sir John Armitt

Armitt was speaking on the same platform as shadow chancellor Ed Balls and former transport minister Lord Adonis. [Balls sets out Labour's post-Election plans for National Infrastucture Commission]

Armitt was commissioned by the Labour party in 2012 to see whether a new institutional structure could be established to better enable the long term decision making necessary for strategic infrastructure planning. The concept of a National Infrastructure Commission was his key recommendation and Labour announced last July that if elected it would implement the idea.

Final draft legislation for the commission would be published in a month, Armitt said, taking into account feed back from recent consultations. As a result housing was likely to become part of the commission’s remit.

“Some say I am trying to take the politics out of infrastructure,” he said. “This is opposite of what I had intended. The commission will act as an enabler for political engagement.”

The commission, he explained, would be charged with producing an annual report that would go beyond what is in the current National Infrastructure Plan. “That doesn’t give a clear picture of how successful investment made is matched by delivery," he said. "The commission’s report would be able to highlight shortfalls in delivery.”

Infrastucture UK, he envisaged, would be incrementally phased into the commission.

He was positive about seeing the commission accepted as a solution for selecting a clear strategy for the nation’s long term infrastructure needs. “Government has not rejected it,” he said “but nor has it expressed clear support.”

How the commission would work

The commission would look 20 to 30 years ahead with a fresh assessment of national infrastructure requirements carried out every 10 years.

The results would be passed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to lay proposals before parliament within six months. If approved by parliament, within two years government departments would have to form detailed 10 year sector plans of how they will deliver and fund the work.

Parliament would then vote on the 10 year plans and again, if approved national policy statements would be prepared to give guidance to the planning institutions.

Government could instigate of a review of each sector plan once in every parliament. 

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